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Dance and Theater at Bard SummerScape 2019: Evidence: A Dance Company Premieres Grace and Mercy (July 5–7) and Tony Nominee Daniel Fish Directs Acquanetta (July 11–21)

ANNANDALE-ON-HUDSON, NY: The 2019 Bard SummerScape festival presents a pair of important new dance and theater works next month. On July 5–7, Evidence, A Dance Company and its founder and artistic director, Ronald K. Brown, make their festival debut with the world premiere of Grace and Mercy. A new SummerScape commission, this two-part program pairs Grace (live), a 20th-anniversary version of Brown’s soulful masterpiece Grace, now danced entirely to live music performed by Peven Everett, Gordon Chambers,  and others, with the world premiere of Mercy, Brown’s new companion piece, which is set to a brand-new score written and performed live by ten-time Grammy-nominee Meshell Ndegeocello. Next, on July 11–21, Bard presents Acquanetta, a haunting work of theater, opera, and film from composer and Bang on a Can co-founder Michael Gordon and his longtime collaborator, librettist Deborah Artman. A New York Times and New York magazine “Critics’ Pick” and one of New York Classical Review’s “Top Ten Performances of 2018” when it premiered at the PROTOTYPE Festival, Acquanetta comes to Bard in the same “unmissable, … sublime” production (Time Out New York) by innovative director Daniel Fish, whose previous SummerScape staging – a revelatory new take on Oklahoma! – is currently “the coolest new show on Broadway” (New York Times), winning the 2019 Tony Award for Best Revival of a Musical. Both Grace and Mercy and Acquanetta take place in the Frank Gehry-designed Fisher Center on Bard College’s idyllic Hudson River campus.

Dance: Grace and Mercy

Using movement to promote community in African American culture and acquaint audiences with the beauty of traditional African rhythms and forms, Ronald K. Brown, whose string of honors includes an Astaire Award and a Guggenheim Fellowship, is one of contemporary choreography’s most important voices. He has created numerous works for the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, the Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival, Ballet Hispánico, and many others, as well as for Evidence, A Dance Company, which he founded in 1985.

Originally created for the Alvin Ailey Dance Theater, where it remains one of the most popular works in the repertory today, Grace blends modern dance and West African idioms to depict a spiritual journey to the promised land. The New York Times describes it as a “1999 classic” in which “the fireball intensity of the dancers … is astounding, something to be sensed as well as seen.” As in many of Brown’s works, the movement alternates fluidly between extremes, something also reflected in his musical choices, which range from Duke Ellington’s jazz standard Come Sunday and Fela Kuti’s Afro-Pop to Roy Davis’s ethereal dance hit Gabriel. This was produced in collaboration with Peven Everett, who sang and played trumpet and keyboards on Gabriel’s original 1996 release. “One of the most understated, energized and passionate singers around” (BBC Music), Everett serves as lead vocalist and music director for Bard’s world premiere presentation of Grace (live). Ailey Rehearsal Director Matthew Rushing, a member of the original cast of Grace in 1999, joins Evidence as a guest artist to perform in the 20th anniversary edition at the Fisher Center.

To complement Grace (live), Evidence gives the first performances of Mercy, which Brown created especially for SummerScape 2019. The new work blends movement and music to lead both the performers and audience on a journey toward compassion and the joy of redemption, with an original score from singer-songwriter Meshell Ndegeocello – “a visionary and a sensualist who sings with notes of honey, molasses and tar” (New York Times) – who will be on hand to perform its world premiere. Ndegeocello’s music draws on an array of influences, including funk, soul, R&B, hip-hop, reggae, rock, and jazz. Her 1996 release Peace Beyond Passion was named one of NPR’s “150 Greatest Albums Made by Women,” and her most recent recording, Ventriloquism, scored the artist her tenth Grammy nomination.

Theater: Acquanetta

Composer Michael Gordon has produced a strikingly diverse body of work over the past three decades, accruing honors from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Foundation for Contemporary Performance Arts, the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and many more. A longtime creative partner of Gordon and his fellow Bang on a Can composers David Lang and Julia Wolfe, librettist Deborah Artman specializes in exploring new forms and interdisciplinary collaborations, which have been recognized with fiction fellowships from the New York Foundation for the Arts, the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, and the MacDowell Colony.

To create their new work, Gordon and Artman drew inspiration from the obituary of Acquanetta (1921–2004), or Mildred Davenport, as she was originally named. Known for her exotic beauty, Acquanetta headlined such 1940s horror films as Captive Wild Woman, Jungle Woman, The Sword of Monte Cristo, and Tarzan and the Leopard Woman. Though thought to be of Arapaho heritage, she was billed as the “Venezuelan Volcano” and gave a different version of her past in every interview. The catalyst for Acquanetta is a scene from the 1943 cult classic Captive Wild Woman, in which a mad doctor conducts a doomed experiment to create a woman by transplanting a human female’s brain and glands into a gorilla. In Artman’s libretto, the characters function both as actors playing roles and as the parts they are playing, revealing their inner longings as they wrestle with identity, stereotypes, and typecasting.

When Acquanetta premiered under Daniel Fish’s direction at Brooklyn’s PROTOTYPE Festival last year, it was hailed as “a major addition to this composer’s canon” (New York Times) and “a historic milestone” (New York Classical Review). As for Fish’s production, the New York Times observed: “Some of the ways his staging builds and releases tension are too good to spoil.” Bard’s production stars Rebecca L. Hargrove, Amelia Watkins, Eliza Bagg, Christopher Burchett, and Timur, accompanied by members of the Choir of Trinity Wall Street and the Bang on a Can Opera ensemble under the baton of David Bloom. Bloom graduated from Bard College in 2013, and from Bard’s Graduate Conducting Program in 2015.

For Fish, a 2019 Tony nominee and winner of the 2017 Herb Alpert Award in the Arts for Theatre, Acquanetta marks the first return to Bard since SummerScape 2015, when he debuted his production of Oklahoma!. Now the Tony-winning toast of Broadway, this recently enjoyed a sold-out run at St. Ann’s Warehouse in Brooklyn, where it was honored among the productions deemed “Best Theater of 2018” by the New York Times, and chosen as No. 1 on Time magazine’s list of “The 10 Best Plays and Musicals of 2018.”

Grace and Mercy is co-commissioned by the Fisher Center, Kennedy Center, Carolina Performing Arts at UNC Chapel Hill, and The Joyce Theater’s Stephen and Cathy Weinroth Fund for New Work. Grace was originally commissioned by the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in 1999.

The chamber version of Acquanetta was commissioned and produced by Beth Morrison Projects with lead commissioning support by Linda & Stuart Nelson and additional support from Chris Ahearn & Marla Mayer, Miles & Joni Benickes, Stephen Block, Sarah Brown, Emilie Corey, Jeanne Donovan Fisher, Marian Godfrey, Joel Graber, Raulee Marcus, James Marlas & Marie Nugent-Head Marlas, Jill Matichak, Charles & Jane Morrison, and Anna Rabinowitz.

To download high-resolution photos, click here.


Dance and theater at Bard SummerScape 2019

Ronald K. Brown/Evidence: A Dance Company
Grace and Mercy
World premiere of SummerScape commission

Choreography by Ronald K. Brown

Original music for Mercy written and performed by Meshell Ndegeocello
With Chris Bruce, guitar; Abraham Rounds, percussion; Jake Sherman, keyboards

Music from Grace performed live by Peven Everett and Gordon Chambers
With Mario Abney, trumpet; Chris Bruce, guitar; Julius Rodriguez, keyboards; Dan Chmielinski, bass; Abraham Rounds, percussion; Corey Wallace, trombone

Scenic and lighting design: Tsubasa Kamei
Costume design: Wunmi Olaiya
Sound design and engineering: Dave Wegner

EVIDENCE: A Dance Company

Michael Battle, Arcell Cabuag, Shayla Caldwell, Stephanie Chronopoulos**, Kirven Douthit-Boyd*, Joyce Edwards**, Paris Jones**, Valeriane Louisy Louis-Joseph, Hannah Richardson**, Randall Riley*, Annique Roberts, Matthew Rushing*, Keon Thoulouis, and Elaisa van der Kust**

*Guest Artist

Sosnoff Theater

Friday, July 5 at 8pm* (with opening-night reception for members)
Saturday, July 6 at 8pm (with post-performance conversation)
Sunday, July 7 at 2pm* (with pre-performance conversation at 1pm)

Tickets: $25 to $95

Music by Michael Gordon
Libretto by Deborah Artman
Directed by Daniel Fish
Conducted by David Bloom ’13, GCP ’15
Produced by Beth Morrison Projects 

Acquanetta: Rebecca L. Hargrove
Brainy Woman: Amelia Watkins
Ape: Eliza Bagg
Director: Christopher Burchett
Doctor: Timur 

Scenic design by Amy Rubin
Video design by Joshua Higgason
Costume design by Terese Wadden
Lighting design by Barbara Samuels
Sound design by Garth MacAleavey
Dramaturgy by Michael R. Jackson

Members of the Choir of Trinity Wall Street
Members of Bang on a Can Opera ensemble

LUMA Theater

Opening Night Reception for Members: Friday, July 12
Pre-Performance Conversation: Sunday, July 14 at 1pm
Post-Performance Conversation: Wednesday, July 17

Thursday, July 11 at 8pm
Friday, July 12 at 8pm*
Saturday, July 13 at 2pm
Sunday, July 14 at 2pm*
Wednesday, July 17 at 2pm
Thursday, July 18 at 8pm
Friday, July 19 at 8pm
Saturday, July 20 at 2pm
Saturday, July 20 at 8pm
Sunday, July 21 at 2pm

Tickets: $25 to $75

* Round-trip bus service from Manhattan is provided exclusively to ticket-holders for the performances on July 5, 7, 12 and 14. A reservation is required, and may be made by calling the box office at 845-758-7900 or by selecting this option when purchasing tickets. The round-trip fare is $40, and the coach departs from behind Lincoln Center, on Amsterdam Avenue between 64th and 65th Streets. Find additional details at:

SummerScape 2019: other key performance dates by genre

Bard Music Festival, Weekend One: Korngold and Vienna (Aug 9–11)
Bard Music Festival, Weekend Two: Korngold in America (Aug 16–18)

“Korngold and the Poetry of Cinema”
Ottaway Film Center
July 25 at 7pm: A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Max Reinhardt & William Dieterle, 1935, USA)
July 28 at 7pm: Captain Blood (Michael Curtiz, 1935, USA)
August 1 at 7pm: The Ancient Law (E.A. Dupont, 1923, Germany)
August 4 at 7pm: Letter from an Unknown Woman (Max Ophuls, 1948)
August 8 at 7pm: The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (John Huston, 1948, USA)
August 11 at 7pm: The Man Who Knew Too Much (Alfred Hitchcock, 1956, USA)
August 15 at 7pm: The Sea Wolf (Michael Curtiz, 1941, USA); King’s Row (Sam Wood, 1942, USA)
August 18 at 7pm: 2001: A Space Odyssey (Stanley Kubrick, 1968, USA)
Tickets: $10

Erich Wolfgang Korngold: The Miracle of Heliane (“Das Wunder der Heliane”)
American Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Leon Botstein
Directed by Christian Räth
Sosnoff Theater
July 26* at 7:30pm
July 28* & 31; August 4* at 2pm
August 2* at 4pm
Tickets: $25 to $125

Opening Night Reception for Members Friday, July 26
Opera Talk with Leon Botstein Sunday, July 28 at noon

Live Music, Cabaret, Jazz, Festival Dining, and After Hours salon
June 29-August 17
Dates, times, and ticket prices vary

Bard SummerScape ticket information

Tickets for all Bard SummerScape events are now on sale. For tickets and further information on all SummerScape events, call the Fisher Center box office at 845-758-7900 or visit

SummerScape opera, theater, and dance performances and most Bard Music Festival programs are held in the Sosnoff Theater or LUMA Theater in Bard’s Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts, designed by Frank Gehry and celebrated since its opening as a major architectural landmark in the region. Some chamber programs and other BMF events are in Olin Auditorium, and the Spiegeltent has its own schedule of events, in addition to serving as a restaurant, café, and bar before and after performances. Film Series screenings are at the Jim Ottaway Jr. Film Center in the Milton and Sally Avery Arts Center.

New York City Round-Trip Coach Transportation:
To make a reservation on the round-trip SummerScape coach provided exclusively to ticket holders for specific performances indicated by * in the listings above, call the box office at 845-758-7900 or select this option when purchasing tickets. The round-trip fare is $40 and reservations are required. The coach departs from behind Lincoln Center, on Amsterdam Avenue between 64th and 65th Streets. Find additional details at:

Full Schedule:
For a complete schedule of SummerScape and Bard Music Festival events (subject to change), follow the links given below. Updates are posted at the festival web site

Fisher Center members receive priority access to the best seats in advance, and those who join the Center’s email list receive advance booking opportunities as well as regular news and updates.

Bard SummerScape:

Bard Music Festival:

Tickets and Subscriptions:; or by phone at 845-758-7900. Tickets to all mainstage events start at $25.

Subscription Offers:
Create Your Own Series:
Save 25% and enjoy maximum flexibility, by choosing four or more events.
SummerScape Mainstage Package:
Save 30% and guarantee seats for dance, theater, and opera events.
Dining Packages:
Out-of-Town Package:
Save $30 on a mainstage ticket, roundtrip bus from New York City, and three-course meal.
Night Out Package:
Save $20 on a mainstage ticket (selected performances only) and three-course meal.

Updates: Bard’s “e-subscribers” get all the news in regular updates. Click here to sign up, or send an e-mail to [email protected].

All programs are subject to change.

The 2019 SummerScape season is made possible in part through the generous support of Jeanne Donovan Fisher, the Martin and Toni Sosnoff Foundation, the Board of The Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts at Bard College, the Board of the Bard Music Festival, and Fisher Center members, as well as grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.

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© 21C Media Group, June 2019

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